Igniting the passion
Imagine being eight years old and being given your own patch of land to curate your own garden? Growing up on a block in Warrandyte, Melissa’s parents recognised her passion for gardening and dedicated some of their land for her to create her own masterpiece. Every weekend she visited the local nursey and after school would plant and create. From her own rose garden, herb garden, to a wishing well made from bluestones. Melissa was always surrounded by plants; her parents were keen gardeners, and her grandparents owned a native plant nursey with which she would often spend time in.
Melissa’s passion only grew stronger and at 15 she started work experience at her local nursey Warran Glen Garden Café in Warrandyte. Through her efforts, she was offered a casual position working weekends and holidays. As she spent time there, she was able to learn quickly what was in and out of season, by seeing the changeover regularly. As she watered the plants, she would often read the labels to learn their care instructions. The nursey was an excellent training ground for her to learn plant varieties and what is seasonally relevant.
It was when Melissa turned 18 that her career really started to head into the direction of where she is today. She studied a degree in horticulture at Burnley College with the ‘intention of becoming a garden archaeologist to preserve heritage gardens’. However throughout high school she regularly participated in acting classes and was recommended to take on a career in horticulture media. A relatively small and undefined industry at the time, she reached out to long time friend and influence, Andrew Raper, Manager of Warran Glen for connections in the industry. Andrew was able to provide Melissa with a list of people she could connect with for work experience and one of those was her soon to be mentor, John Patrick.
Melissa arranged a meeting with John and told him about her ambitions, her experience, and her studies through Burnley College. Melissa notes, ‘he was incredibly generous with his time’, gave her a list of magazine editors she could reach out to and start writing for with one being ‘Your Garden’. Melissa stayed in touch with John and as her career grew, John asked her to co-host a gardening radio show on 3AK called ‘Down the Garden Path’.
Through this experience, John then put her forward for an audition for a TV presenter role with Gardening Australia as they ‘wished to inject some youth into the program’. With very little time to prepare, Melissa was invited onset whilst they were filming in Melbourne for an impromptu audition. As the crew were between sets, she was asked to just speak about the garden with the cameras rolling and she shined! As she was taking the crew around the garden and talking to all the different plant varieties, she noticed a rose had fallen. She knelt down to provide a new camera angle and so did the crew with her. At this moment, a boisterous staffy came barrelling over to her and nearly knocked her off her toes. But she took the opportunity in her stride and spoke to the camera that ‘the garden is full of lots of robust plants for playful pets’ with which the crew were impressed with her ability to improvise on the spot.
The Perks Of The Job
From that moment, Melissa’s career in Horticulture Media began. Her favourite part of her job is the variety. 'One day you are out in a stunning garden, the next you are physically planting, or you might be at your desk. It’s the enormous variety and flexibility which helps with being a mum’. As a mother of two boys of 8 and 10 she is always on the go but has help from her partner Alex. The boys love helping her in the garden and although Alex is not a passionate gardener, he does some of the maintenance and has introduced a firepit into the garden which has become a real feature and focal point for their family meals, kids’ parties and more. When Melissa is not working on Better Homes & Gardens or playing mum, you will find her practicing her photography skills or writing her teenage novel, which we have no doubt it is an award-winning novel in the making!
Her professional and home life balance is important to her, and she is grateful for the flexibility her role provides. The industry has seen massive growth since COVID and Melissa notes, ‘it was really amazing to see home gardeners embrace indoor plants and create their own little havens’ and she would ‘love to see these new gardeners grow into true gardeners’. She loves how the community has grown and wishes to foster their growth so they can continue to grow their gardens, grow their own food and have their own thriving backyard oasis.
But what does she wear to work?
A country girl at heart, Melissa can’t go past a Green Hip shirt. They are the perfect summer number to pair with jeans, a belt, and boots. They are stretchy and comfortable. But it wasn’t always that easy for Melissa to dress during her career. She explains ‘it was a journey finding clothing that you look practical and good in’ and that she ‘had trouble finding her groove’. She would look at men’s ranges and feel ‘disappointed’ at the lack of female offerings and would find herself shopping everywhere as there was no one, stop, shop for her. But over time, she was able to develop her sense of style and self-worth whilst being able to find practical options that felt and looked good – queue Green Hip!
If there is one thing that amazes us about Melissa King, is her creativity and passion for gardening. We have no doubt she will continue to inspire the next generation of gardeners with her imagination and originality.